With the upcoming fall season bringing cooler temperatures, residents will soon be turning on their heating systems. Here are some important tips to consider in preparing homes for colder weather:
Have your heating system professionally serviced. Having your heating system checked is an important safety practice, since improperly functioning systems can produce carbon monoxide. UGI recommends your heating system be checked annually to ensure it is operating properly.
Having your heating system professionally cleaned and serviced regularly can also reduce your fuel costs, in some cases by as much as 10 percent. Servicing your system now also reduces the likelihood of needing emergency service in cold weather.
A qualified service technician will check the following items on your appliance:
- Make sure the pilot light (if the appliance is equipped with one) and thermostat are working correctly.
- Check the fuel pipe and heat exchanger for cracks or leaks.
- Test the efficiency of your heating system (how effectively your furnace or boiler converts fuel to heat).
Clean or replace the filter. One of the simplest and most important ways to keep your heating system running efficiently is to maintain and/or replace the filters as recommended. Filters that are properly fitted and cleaned or replaced regularly can have a significant impact on your energy costs and the quality of air in your home.
Filters should be replaced or cleaned, depending on your type of filter, about every three months. By keeping your filters clean, you will not only have your home better prepared for winter, but you may benefit if you experience fall allergies.
Ensure the exhaust flue or chimney is clear of obstructions and in good condition.
Have your chimney inspected for any damage that may have occurred during summer storms. Significant rainfall during the summer may have caused some chimneys to be blocked with debris. Blockages, cracked liners and other structural damage to chimneys can cause carbon monoxide to enter your home or soot to accumulate outside the liner, eventually leading to a chimney fire.
Anytime you are near your furnace, check for holes in the exhaust flue, particularly where the pipe meets the furnace. Small holes can be patched with foil tape, but corroded flues must be replaced.
Make sure your appliances have proper air flow. “Seal tight and ventilate right” should be the guiding principle when it comes to sealing air leaks and keeping vents unobstructed. The key: make sure your home doesn’t lose valuable heat but provides enough fresh air to maintain good indoor air quality.
If your furnace and the water heater are in an enclosed room or closet, make sure they get plenty of air. Furnace rooms or closets should have door louvers or a duct piped directly to the outside to provide sufficient combustion air.
If you renovated your home recently and enclosed your furnace or water heater in a small room or closet, you should inspect the work carefully to ensure your appliances have proper air flow. Lack of air flow will cause your system to function improperly and could cause a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide in your home.
Seal air leaks. Small air leaks around windows, doors, pipes, recessed lighting, and electrical outlets can add up to a significant loss of heat. Sealing air leaks can reduce your heating bills by 10-20 percent depending on specific conditions in your home.
Seal door leaks with weather-stripping or a door sweep. Window leaks can be sealed with caulking. Pay particular attention to the attic hatch or pull-down stairs as well as any interior-wall top plates in the attic, as these areas leak frequently.
Ensure that return-air vents in the house allow air to flow. Your home’s return-air vents ensure that the air inside your home circulates properly. If vents are not allowing air to flow because of an obstruction, your heating system will work harder to heat your home, leading to higher energy bills. Examine your vents and ensure that air can pass through. Clear obstructions such as clothes, toys and furniture from in front of vents.
Clean and unblock heat registers. Dirt, dust, and pet fur reduce the effectiveness of ducts and registers that distribute heat. Make sure furniture, curtains and blankets are not near or resting on your heat registers. Clean these elements regularly and make sure furniture and drapes don’t inhibit the air flow.
Remove all flammable objects from around your furnace and water heater. Move combustibles that may have piled up over the summer such as paper, books, blankets, and decorations away from heat sources. These materials should be at least 36 inches away from your furnace or water heater.
Check to ensure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working properly. Make sure detectors have fresh batteries. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be located on every floor of your home and one should be located within each bedroom.
Do not overload extension cords. As you start to use electric blankets, holiday decorations and additional area lights with earlier nightfall and cooler temperatures, do not overload extension cords. Cords that are overloaded or coiled when in use can overheat and cause a fire. Inspect all electric cords in your home for signs of damage or wear (cracked/frayed/bare wires, loose connections, etc.) before plugging them in and never use a cord that feels hot to the touch. Do not nail or staple a cord to the wall or floor. In addition, do not pinch cords in windows, doors or under heavy furniture, or through walls or ceilings. Make sure the cord is rated for your intended use and meets the needs of the appliance or device it is plugged into.
Check for rebates. Most UGI natural gas and electric customers can qualify for a number of rebates associated with the installation of energy-saving measures in your home or business. These rebates cover items such as a smart thermostat, energy saving measures such as insulation, or the installation of an ENERGY STAR certified heating system. Visit www.ugi.com/savesmart for full program details.